Turkish government removes evolution from nation’s high-school curriculum

“I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the principles of democracy, the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him against the liberty of his fellow-men.” —Kemal Atatürk

President Recep Erdoğan’s dismantling of Turkey’s secularism continues, and this time it’s personal.

Several sources, including Turkish Minute and SolInternational report that the Turkish Education Ministry has removed a chapter on evolution from a 12th-grade textbook. The earlier chapter was called “The beginning of life and evolution,” but, beginning with the 2017/2018 school year, it’s been replaced by a chapter called titled “Living creatures and the environment.” I seriously doubt that this is just a change of title; all indications of what’s happening in Turkey suggests that this will be either a pro-creationist chapter or one that questions the truth of evolution. After all, this is all part of Erdoğan’s drive to make Turkey an Islamic theocracy, and the Qur’an (which is often read literally, and has a purely creationist description of human origins) has no truck with evolution. While the modern theory of evolution is taught in some Muslim countries, in many the topic is simply off limits.

SolInternational reports, in English that’s a bit fractured,

The debates around whether to exclude Evolution Theory and include Intelligent Design model has been escalating recently. Responding to a question on the exclusion of Evolution Theory from the curriculum, the Minister of National Education, İsmet Yılmaz said that the draft is open for feedbacks, and the Evolution Theory is not an exception. Yılmaz claimed that “whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical, all these are debatable.”

The AKP government [Erdoğan’s party] had long been attempting to transform the education system and curriculum in line with Islamic principles and credo. In 2012, weight of Religion courses had been increased from 2 to 6 hours a week. In 2013, the government had made a regulation, which let the Intelligent Design model to be included in the curriculum beside the Evolution Theory.

There are other changes as well:

– Information about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, is being reduced in the first grade.

. . . On January 5, pro-AKP teachers’ union Eğitim-Bir-Sen has suggested that courses related to Atatürk should be removed from school curriculums. The union’s statement came after the Education Ministry announced that it had concluded efforts at renovating the schedule. 

You can read my appreciation of Atatürk here. As you can see from the quote at the top, he was secularist, a reformer, and an atheist whose legacy is being systematically dismantled by the new government. What we are seeing in Turkey, and which is verified by my friends there, is a metastasizing Islamization of the country. The elimination of evolution is one aspect of this, but of course that tactic, while removing an important aspect of knowledge from the Turkish curriculum, will do far less damage than the increasing repression of women, muting of freedom of speech, and jailing of opponents. Many of us who have spent time in Turkey love that country, and weep for what’s happening to it now. Going back to secularism seems an impossible task.

h/t: Stephen Muth


  1. Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink


  2. GBJames
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink


  3. ricardomenacuevas
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I read your book Why Evolution is True.

    It is quite good.

    But the final critique on Evolutionary Psychology was such a bad ending. As Steven Pinker says, ‘Evolution is an indispensable component of any satisfying explanation of our psychology.’ Have you read David Buss’ Evolutionary Psychology: the New Science of the Mind? I think they are doing a great job, one that Darwin foretold at the end of his On the Origin of Species.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      I have recently reread Jerry’s WEIT [I read it every year – that’s five read-throughs since I bought it]

      It what way is JACs critique on Evo Psychology “such a bad ending”? What does that mean?

      In chapter 9 Jerry gives a very balanced overview of what’s achievable in EvoPsy & also warns against telling “Just so” stories – after all it is very difficult to determine the cause of a trait & a trait may have more than one cause. This is especially true for the psychology of humans given the cultural input that pertains.

      I haven’t read Buss’ textbook as it’s still too expensive despite being in a 5th edition [I’m going to look for 2nd hand copies now]. I can’t find any reviews of the work by academics in the field of evolution.

      Q1: Can you point me to a review you trust?
      Q2: Given the ethical limitations of research on humans… is it true that the backbone of Buss’ research data is via polling sample populations of people or does it come from other methods too? If other methods too – what are they?

      • Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:04 pm | Permalink


      • Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        But also … was Evopsy related to Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail? 😁


        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

          LOL – I didn’t notice the possibilities of my shortening of that term

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      I’ve just noticed that you are off topic Ricardo so I retract my long statement/questions. I open JAC’s posts together & lose track of which comments are with what post.

      Shame really as I was going to post something re Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, but not pertinent to Turkey unfortunately

  4. chris moffatt
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Well that’s what you get in a theocracy which Erdogan is rapidly dragging Turkey back to. The same will happen here if ever the theocrats get the upper hand. We could have a new round of Salem witch trials if we don’t look out!

    • Francisco
      Posted January 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Agree 100%. Its only to transmit the religious virus to the boy, specially warning him that apostasy meants fatah with death penalty, that you have a “zomby” that can be a “moderate muslim” or a bomber-killer depending on the teachings he receives in his Mosque visits. I think thats the problem in Turkey. Althow Attaturk was enlighted, in few generations the “mosque rulers” change them to forget occidental sciente (boko haram, occidental teaching is sin) and go back to islamic law etc.
      And on the catlholic virus side???
      “Witches do a great bad today”, told me not long ago a catholic priest from Orihuela Cathedral, in Spain.

  5. Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    And soon … the USA.


  6. Geoff Toscano
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Turkey is still a major holiday destination for Europeans, certainly those in the UK. Personally I’d be both nervous to go there for safety reasons (which is probably based more on emotion than reason), but also out of principle that it is culturally degrading so quickly.

    What’s astonishing is that many pro Brexit people here in the UK still believe the hysterical gutter press lie that Turkey is on the verge of being admitted to the EU. It may have been vaguely possible ten years ago (though I very much doubt it), but now it’s absolutely inconceivable.

    • Posted January 17, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      We’re taking a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean in April/May, and Turkey has been taken off the itinerary. (We’re going to Albania instead!)


    • Michiel
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      Well, to be fair that “gutter press lie” isn’t helped by the fact (AFAIK) so far official EU policy is still to continue negotiations on this front, and the EU made certain deals including accelerating the process of becoming a member and granting visa-free travel in exchange for, well, not sending (more) waves of refugees over to Europe. Now, these matters were also tied to several points that Turkey had to agree on, for instance regarding terrorism laws if I remember correctly. So far this deal is sort of in limbo as Turkey hasn’t fulfillled it’s side of the deal to the satisfaction of the EU yet.

      And while you can argue that, reading between the lines of the official statements, you can deduce that a Turkish EU membership is a long way off, I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that the idea of Turkish membership is a “hysterical gutter press lie”. And I don’t think you can blame “regular people” for getting the idea that Turkey’s EU membership is not really all that far off.

      The only reason the visa-free travel deal didn’t happen already is because Turkey missed a deadline on reforms. But the European commissioner in charge of migration and visa policy still believes Turkey will meet the conditions (though no time-frame was specified).
      It is not surprising that many EU citizens are not exactly happy about the prospect of visa free travel for 79 million people from an increasingly islamic/theocratic and authoritarian country on their doorstep, certainly not considering the ongoing refugee crisis and widespread problems with islamic minorities already residing in the EU.

      As far as I’m concerned, EU leadership should be clear to it’s citizens that under Turky’s current direction, it will never become a member of the EU, and indefinitely break off talks on this front completely.
      At the same time I understand that it’s a diplomatic process and they are trying to keep leverage to force certain reforms in Turkey.

      • Posted January 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        + 1. I do not exclude admission of Turkey in the EU in the foreseeable future (provided that the EU itself survives, of course). So far, European leaders have been only too happy to facilitate the spread of Islam in Europe.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      From Wikipedia:

      At the Helsinki summit in December 1999 Turkey was given the status of a candidate country. At the end of 2004, the European Commission has issued a report with positive recommendations to the European Council, indicating the degree of compliance by Turkey of the Copenhagen political criteria. On this basis, the European Council has decided to start accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005.

      They are still a candidate country, and while it may not happen soon the EU has a history (e.g. Greece) of allowing political progress to overlook mere suitability.

  7. busterggi
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Like DeVos won’t be trying to do the same in the US?

  8. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t but wonder whether Adnan Oktar will be involved in all this https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/creepy-creationist-adnan-oktar-and-his-stepford-kittens/. He professes fealty to Erdogan’s government, though I can’t imagine why, given his wacko Islamic cult, that he’s not already in jail or in exile (or simply put on a bus and given a one-way ticket across the border to Syria). Despite his zeal for creationism and his profession of loyalty to Erdogan, I wonder what will happen to him and his “kittens” as Turkey becomes an increasingly Islamist country. For those interested in Oktar and his relation to Turkish politics, here’s a recent article from the Daily Beast http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/07/08/the-dictator-vs-the-sex-cult.html.

    • Posted January 17, 2017 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      “He professes fealty to Erdogan’s government, though I can’t imagine why, given his wacko Islamic cult” – perhaps it is just as simple as trying to look like they are on the same side? (“Marriage of convenience.”)

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted January 17, 2017 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        Undoubtedly it is a marriage of convenience. However, Oktar is so wacked and the Islamists are fundamentalists and puritanical that I don’t see how Erdogan could fail, not just to to sunder the union but destroy Oktar and his cult, which, in addition to its cheezy-sleazy sexuality, hardly meets theological muster in any area – he’s made up his own theology and praxis, and thinks that he’s the Mhadi. I’ve seen him referred to derogatorily as batiniyya https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batiniyya. I’ve found another interesting article about Oktar http://balkanist.net/the-islamic-sex-cult-supporting-turkeys-prime-minister/.

  9. Posted January 17, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    My husband also had the greatest respect for Kemal Ataturk. Before Larry died in 2016, the changes he was seeing in Turkey already disturbed him greatly. I hope we don’t eventually have to learn to survive in a world controlled by the spread of Islam and Sharia law.

    In the meantime, we have our own problems here at home with the Secretary of Education picked by President Elect, Donald Trump. Following is one article in Snopes about Betsy Devoe, an extremely wealthy conservative religious person who promotes for-profit education and taking money from public schools to give to charter schools. There are many other interesting and scary articles about this person on the internet. As I recall, she also was accused of being instrumental in getting Michigan to change from a “Union” state to a “Right to Work” state. We are on the path to even greater ignorance and poverty.


  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I never root for a military coup in an ostensible democracy, since, in most modern western democracies, the entrenched military brass tends to be among a society’s most reactionary and autocratic forces. (Hell, Donald Trump’s naming of three generals to key positions in his administration was enough to give me the Seven-Days-in-May willies, even though I like two of the three generals he selected.)

    But in post-Atatürk Turkey (as in post-Nasser Egypt) the military has been the traditional bastion of secularism. Let’s hope that, even after Erdoğan’s recent purges, the Turkish military continues to have the clout to play that role there.

    • Posted January 17, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      What about the US?

      It struck me when, in his last address to the troops, Obama reminded them of their obligation to defend the US against enemies foreign and domestic … 



    • eric
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t count on it. He purged the military of tens of thousands of troops and officers just after the ‘attempted coup’. I’d say it’s pretty much guaranteed that his target was any military officer or NCO he thought might be insufficiently loyal and/or had the reputation needed to lead the military against his government.

  11. rickflick
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Watching Turkey is like watching a sugar lump dissolve in tea. It won’t be long now.

  12. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I worry about Turkey immensely. It’s at the crossroad between East and West, and it is an important player in maintaining peace. Erdoğan is not only increasingly Islamist, he’s cosying up to Russia. Putin is working on him at the same time that Trump is withdrawing the US from international influence.

    There could come a point sooner than we think that the powers that be see a hot war as the only way to retain the international influence of liberal democracy (as opposed to illiberal democracy).

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 17, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      There could come a point sooner than we think that the powers that be see a hot war as the only way to retain the international influence of liberal democracy

      That sounds scarily like “we must have a war to protect peace”.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 17, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

        Yep. That’s just what they were saying in 1913-14. And I’m not the first one to point that out either.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 20, 2017 at 7:17 am | Permalink

          I’m trying to remember a line from Dr Strangeglove. Not the “You can’t fight here – this is the War Room!” line, but something else is nagging away below conscious memory.

  13. Posted January 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Turkey is neighbor of Bulgaria, and my university used to have many international students from there. Most were very poorly prepared academically and spoke almost no English, though they were enrolled to be taught in English. The few good Turkish students told us that their parents had gone broke to pay their education in good private schools, because public schools were a failure. (I have read that in Pakistan, public schools also failed, to the advantage of mosque-associated religious madrasas. It seems that turning of a country to Islamism is facilitated by a preceding collapse of public education.)

    Turkish students are generally disciplined, but I have met opposition from some when teaching evolution, and some have skipped classes to pray. And they presumably belonged to the elite, children from well-to-do families sent abroad to study medicine. This is the soil on which Erdogan grew.

    We are happy that the administration of our university minimized the admission of students from Turkey. Most of our current “Turkish” international students are actually coming from Germany and other European countries. I also know a girl who enrolled at our university after graduating a Bulgarian school. She was sent by her parents to study abroad at age 14-15. Such “unaccompanied minors” from Turkey are becoming more and more common. Because their parents pay everything from Turkey, these children are hidden from view and not counted as refugees. (Mind you, Turkey is still regarded as a safe country, which it is only if one compares it to Syria.)

  14. Steve Pollard
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    I suppose it is unduly cynical to suggest that one response might be “Great! Bring it on! The fewer properly educated and qualified people there are from places like Turkey, the less competition the civilised world faces!”

    I expect so.

  15. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    According to various untrusted sources [Breitbart etc. in August 2016] the US has moved its stockpile of nuclear weapons from a bunker at Turkey’s Incirlik air base to Romania.

    Does anyone have reliable information on this? I assume the movement of NATO weapons, [especially nuclear] isn’t permitted without the agreement of all NATO members.

    • Posted January 18, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      They aren’t NATO weapons, they are *US* weapons. That’s why Canada was able to (eventually) get the nuclear armed submarines (for example) out of Canadian bases.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted January 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        No Keith. While they are in Turkey these are NATO weapons under the nuclear sharing scheme – under that scheme [a nuclear deterrence agreement if you will] a member cannot make unilateral decisions without consulting the other members.

        Regarding Canada: that was a different setup [not nuclear sharing] hosted under NORAD & not NATO. Canada left NATO in the early 70s before the events you mention.

  16. San
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Turkey seems to be heading down a dark road of dictatorship and autocracy that has cause such backwardness and suffering in the Arab world to the south of it. The only ones left to support in the Middle East are the Kurds as they struggle against some of the worst regimes and jihadi groups in the region.

  17. eric
    Posted January 17, 2017 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Turkey, England with Brexit, the US with Trump, potentially France with Le Pen, Putin rolling back human rights and poised to retake Ukraine…I wouldn’t be surprised if historians in the future called the 2010s “the great step back” or something similar.

  18. Diane G.
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 12:53 am | Permalink


  19. Mike
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “whether it is scientific, merely a hypothesis, or just theoretical, all these are debatable.”
    Not to anyone with more than a dozen brain cells it isn’t

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